More than 20 years ago I discovered something: When I stopped having dairy, I stopped having period pain. Since then, I’ve worked with thousands of patients and I’ve seen the same thing over and over again. Stopping dairy can dramatically improve period pain, heavy periods, endometriosis, acne, and PMS.
Stopping dairy can improve period problems, but not every time. It depends on the person, and it depends on the type of dairy.
What Is the Problem with Dairy?
It’s Not the Lactose
Lactose is the sugar in dairy, and it can be tricky to digest if you don’t make enough lactase (lactose-digesting enzyme). Lactose-intolerance causes diarrhea and digestive bloating, but it does not cause period problems. Switching to lactose-free products might help your digestion, but it won’t help your endometriosis.
It Might Be the Hormones
Milk naturally contains small amounts of over sixty different hormones including testosterone, progesterone, insulin, and a potent growth hormone called IGF-1. There is still debate about how much these external hormones affect us. After all, we make a larger amount of the same hormones ourselves. Some experts believe that dairy hormones do affect us, and have linked them to an increased risk of prostate cancer and acne.
It’s Probably the Inflammatory A1 Casein
As we saw in my A1 Milk Post, the biggest problem is a protein called A1 casein. In some people, A1 casein cleaves in the digestive tract to form a potent opiate-type molecule (called casomorphin or BCM7) that stimulates the production of inflammatory cytokines.
It is that inflammation that causes period problems. As I explain in my book Period Repair Manual, inflammation profoundly disturbs hormonal and reproductive function.
Not Every Person
Fortunately, A1 casein is not inflammatory for everyone, because some people do not have the digestive enzyme that cleaves A1 casein (so they do not form BCM7). It’s not easy to determine who is affected. There is a urine test for BCM7, but it’s not yet clinically available. To assess clinically for a casein problem, I look for the tell-tale childhood symptoms of recurring tonsillitis, chest or ear infections. Those conditions were a sign of casein immune-disruption in childhood, and they manifest in adults as chronic inflammatory conditions such as period problems. Please see my A1 Milk post.
Not Every Type
A1 casein is found only in the milk of Holstein (Friesian) cows, which are the predominant herds in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. There is very little A1 casein in the milk from Jersey cows, goats, and sheep. Also there is very little A1 casein in heavy cream, butter, or ricotta (a whey cheese)—so those foods are usually Ok.
To Detect a Casein Sensitivity, Try Avoiding It
The best way to detect a casein problem is to try avoiding it. To see results, you’ll need to it for at least three months (even longer for acne). It takes that long for your hormonal system to recover from dairy’s inflammatory effects.
Consider avoiding dairy if you suffer from one or more of following period problems:
Don’t We Need Dairy for Calcium?
It was just too simplistic:
Dairy contains calcium, therefore dairy is good for bones.
As it turns out, that was wishful thinking. A recent large meta-analysis shows that milk-drinkers do not have better bones. In fact, some research shows that milk-drinkers may actually have worse bones. That makes sense when we consider that dairy is inflammatory, and that inflammation is a major cause of osteoporosis.
There are plenty of other sources of calcium including green vegetables, almonds, salmon with bones, and of course: Goat and sheep products.
You can probably have goat or sheep milk products (as I explained above). You could try also alternatives such as almond milk and rice milk, but you might want to avoid too much soy milk (as we saw in the last post). You can try no milk. Most meals can be prepared without it, and remember, you can still have butter and goat cheese! If you love coffee, then please have it black, or try it with coconut milk (very popular these days), or a splash of heavy cream.
Bottom Line About Dairy and Periods
I am not vehemently anti-dairy. For myself, and for many of my patients, I have found A1 casein to be a real problem. That said, I personally do eat full-fat A2 (goat or sheep) products, and I advise many of my patients to do the same.
Dairy has some benefits. It’s a satisfying food, so it prevents over-eating. It also provides valuable nutrients such as protein and vitamin K2.
Yours in Health,